Cirrus is important in the radiation balance of the global atmosphere, both at solar and thermal infrared (IR) wavelengths. In particular cirrus produced by deep convection over the oceans in the tropics may be critical in controlling processes whereby energy from warm tropical oceans is injected to different levels in the tropical atmosphere to subsequently influence not only tropical but mid latitude climate. Details of the cloud composition may differentiate between a net cooling or warming at these levels. The cloud composition may change depending on the input of nuclei from volcanic or other sources. Observations of cirrus during the FIRE-2 Project over Coffeyville, Kansas and by satellite demonstrate that cirrus, on occasion, is composed not only of larger particles with significant fall velocity (few hundred micrometers, 0.5 m/s) but much more numerous small particles, size 10-20 micrometers, with small fall velocity (cm/s), which may sometimes dominate the radiation field. This is consistent with emissivity measurements. In the thermal IR, ice absorption is strong, so that ice particles only 10 micrometers thick are opaque, at some wavelengths; on the other hand at other wavelengths and in the visible, ice is only moderately to weakly absorbing. It follows that for strongly absorbing wavelengths the average projected area of the ice particles is the important parameter, in weakly absorbing regions it is the volume (mass) of ice which is important. The shape of particles and also their internal structure may also have significant effect on their radiative properties. In order to access the role of cirrus in the radiation budget it is necessary to measure the distribution of ice particles sizes, shapes and concentrations in the regions of interest. A casual observation of any cirrus cloud shows that there is variability down to a scale of at least a few 100 m; this is confirmed by radar and lidar remote sensing. Thus aircraft measurements designed to give insight into the spatial distribution of radiation properties of ice crystals must be capable of examination of concentration, size and shape over a distance ideally of 100 m or less and to detect particles down to a size below which radiative effects are no longer significant.